Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Getting Beyond the WOW and to the WHY

My school is transitioning to a 1:1 school next year.  I have the privilege to be on the Digital Transition Leadership Team.  We are looking at trying to make this transition easier for the teachers on our campus.  Our biggest concern is having our teachers embrace the transition and see how this can radically enhance our students' learning.

As I think about it more, I know it is important to stress that technology integration needs to get beyond the WOW factor and into the WHY.

Technology is so exciting and full of a lot of wow factors.  Using virtual reality, augmented reality, amazing creation apps, and so many other tools can really impressed the students.  As teachers, we must get beyond the WOW and into the WHY.  We are still the teacher.  We still create the learning experiences for our students.  The digital tool is just that, a digital tool.  This is a big push for me. Get beyond the WOW.  It is so hard because there are so many things that are so cool.  If the students can't see the WHY, then the learning experience has been lost.

A few weeks ago, Google Expeditions came to my school and demonstrated virtual reality for the students.  They were wowed like I've rarely seen them.  It was insanely impressive.  Students all day were talking about how awesome it was and were complaining if there classes weren't doing the activities.  I know I will definitely use it in my classes.  But, now I need to figure out the WHY of the experience.  I know the students would love spending time virtually visiting places, but it will get old quickly if that's all we do.  To incorporate this meaningfully, I must find the WHY of the tech integration.  I could have my students look through the Google cardboard every day, but without framing it correctly, I would just have a flashy show without any content or a valuable learning experience for the students.

I know a lot of different apps and tools that I could do something different every day next week. However, if the learning is not the focus in my planning, my "cool" lessons will be nothing more than busy work.  It's funny how students can see right through things.  They have no problem calling you out on assigning them busy work.  Just because it is using technology doesn't mean that learning and deepening understanding is the focus of the lesson.

Teachers, as you start to integrate technology more in your lesson planning, don't forget what you've learned about good teaching and learning.  Wowing the students, although impressive in our day-in-age, will only get you so far.  They want to learn in the classroom.  They want to use their technology.  It is our job to integrate technology and learning in such a way that the students can see the WHY of the technology, and allow themselves to be wowed by the learning that just happened!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Stream Teaching, part 4- Small group rotations

45 students, 3 teachers, 8 groups, 2 campuses...

Today, we tried something really different in our stream teaching pilot.  We did small group rotations.  Small group rotations is a great teaching strategy.  We wanted to see if we could take this to the next level and do the groups virtually.  Although we experienced a slow start getting the technology working for us, it ended up being a success.  Here's what we did.

Mr. Irvin at Jones and I created 5 minute videos for 2 different stations.  The students would go to this station and listen to our videos discussing geographic models and take notes.  After that, the students rotated to another station with some guiding questions about the videos they just watched. Here the students were able to interact with the students at the other campus to process the video they watched.  This deepened the level of understanding of the students.  After they completed the guiding questions, they moved to another station where Mr. Irvin and I were there discussing the aspects of the models and answer any questions they may still have.  I was fielding questions from both schools via the computer.  It was pretty cool discussing with the students on the other campus and helping them understand the concepts even better.

The students then went to a station where my senior intern discussed another aspect of economic growth a country may use.  She was excited to work with the students at the other school as well. This gives her even more experience working with a diverse group of students.  

I really love the potential this has for the students on both campuses.  I felt more connected to the students at Jones today more so than I ever have in the past.  I was having discussions with them about the content just as I would my own students.  I didn't see them just as the students on the other side of the computer today that Mr. Irvin teaches.  I felt they were my students as well today.  I wanted them to understand the concepts.  My students were discussing with them as well, and that makes the connections even more powerful.  Previously, it's just been our two classes joining together as whole groups and connecting using digital tools like Padlet or Google Docs.  This put us face-to-face with the students and it was an immensely successful day.  I am very excited about the possibilities this has opened for us for the rest of the school year!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Nearpod- A great tech find

I was recently at a training for all the AP Human Geography teachers in my district.  We discuss a lot of things during our meeting relating to Human Geography.  I am one of the facilitators.  One of the best parts of the day is when we have teachers share with everyone great lessons or strategies they use in their classroom.  It was here that I heard about Nearpod.  It was blown away with this app and knew I had to use it right away.

If you are unfamiliar with Nearpod, it is a great tool to help engage a classroom in a variety of ways.  The website says, "we strive to empower educators to create learning experiences that engage and inspire millions of students around the world."  It allows teachers to engage the students in a presentation, but then allows a teacher to engage the students in a variety of methods so they can continuously monitor the students understanding about the content.

Nearpod gives teachers a variety of strategies to engage the students.  You take your PowerPoint and upload it to Nearpod.  You then add a variety of activities to gauge the students understanding.  The students can answer a quiz question, take a poll, create an extended response, an draw or annotate anything (seriously, my favorite!).  After the students have answered, you can share out to all of the students in graphs, pie charts, or have them read the answers other students submitted.

This is a very teacher-directed lesson, but there are topics in my course that need some direct instruction at the beginning to give the students the necessary basics so they can move on to deepening the knowledge through engaging learning experiences.  I love how I can monitor their progress and understanding.  

For a more exciting and deeper experience, teachers can insert a 360 degree view of places around the world.  This is exciting because it allows me to take concepts in geography, and have them apply them to the world around them.  We can take virtual field trips to the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas, view the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, or visit the Great Wall of China.  For my class, this was a great find for the students.  When I think they've had enough time to look around, I simply progress the presentation to give them a chance to process it.

If a student is absent, and you want them to experience the entire lesson, you can assign it for homework as well (if you're a Gold Member).  Click here is an example of that.

This has proven to be an amazing tool to use during my stream teaching.  This allows me to control the devices on both campuses.  This has enhanced our learning on both sides of the webcam.  I'm exited about using this tool to its fullest for the rest of the year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Transitioning to a 1:1 Campus

My district is transitioning all high schools to 1:1 next year.  I'm currently on the Digital Instruction Transition team.  We are attending PD now to help with the transition next school year.  I'm planning on blogging about our transition process.

Some things we've discussed already as we start this amazing process:

1.  It is scary!

Going from traditional print classrooms to digital is a HUGE transition.  For many teachers, it is going to force them to look at their lessons and experiences to see how they can adapt them to fit the growing digital expectations.  Our goal as the digital transition team is to try and ease the fears of the teachers.

2.  The students will not be as prepared as we think they will be.

I've said this before, just because they may be called digital natives doesn't mean they have a complete understanding about how to use the technology in a meaningful way.  They can tweet and snap all day and night, but if I ask them to create a meaningful presentation using digital tools, many of them are at a loss as to what that exactly means.  Just like the teachers will need training, we are planning ways to effectively teach the students to use the devices meaningfully.

3.  We must find ways to help those teachers that might be resistant.

This is where I know we will have to work our hardest.  There are a number of teachers that are resistant to this change.  It goes beyond the fear factor from #1.  This is about the contrarians in a school that see this as a fad, and they will continue to do just the bare minimum.  How are we going to reach them?  What can we do to help them with the transition that will benefit both them and their students? I know we need to get these teachers on board quickly so they're vocal opposition to this can be minimized.  This is the scariest part for our team because we know the success of this is dependent on teacher buy-in, and we need to get the right teachers to buy in from the beginning.

4.  This is an exciting time to be in education!

Every training we go to, I leave overly excited about the significance of this transition.  We will begin to instruct the students in a way that is going to radically transform their lives!  I can't wait to start adding so much more to my lessons because of the technology.  There are so many apps and programs that can help make my classroom an even better place.

I can't wait to see where this journey leads us!  I'm looking forward to blogging about and sharing our experiences.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Stream Teaching- Part 3, Not so passive learning

I've had a vision for this process ever since I saw it being implemented by a friend in South Florida. My goal has always been for the students on both campuses to be active participants in the sessions. I've never wanted the students at Jones to just be passive listeners and viewers of my class learning. Today, I felt like we entered a new phase of learning between the sections.  All the students were able to see the other students responses to questions I asked to the whole class, they were able to respond to them, and we all learned together.

Today, we tried to create a more interactive environment for the students.  The past few lessons, we've wanted to get the students more engaged, but haven't figured it out.  We met as a team to discuss this.  The platform we are using, Safari Montage Live, has some great features in it like a chat box for discussions and a poll feature for answering questions.  We tried this previously with TodaysMeet, but it just moved too quickly for the students to actually see what the other students were saying.  The chat feature today allowed for the responses to be seen longer by all the students and both teachers so we could respond to what they were thinking and saying.  I was actually able to respond directly to students at Jones.  I asked them to expand on their comments, or to tell them that I agreed with what they were saying.  I told one student that she had some good insight, and I was able to hear her say thank you back.  I asked one boy to elaborate on his response, and he did so with more details.  It was great to encourage them to think deeper.  I think it helped them seeing my students responses as well.  I think it is definitely a step in the right direction.  We are talking about having the students work in collaborative groups between campuses for activities using Google Docs and other collaborative tools.  We have a lot of room to grow, but I'm excited about where we're heading.

If you are interested in learning more about this, please email me: If you are interested in seeing what we are actually doing, I can send you an invite to view our sessions as well.  We are always looking for suggestions for making this even bigger and better.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Stream Teaching: Part 2-- Our First Day

Today was the day.  We had a few dry runs last week to figure out some technology issues.  We figured we had as much figured out as we could, and we needed to give it a go for real.  David and I planned to do a lesson where the students would work in groups to create a list of characteristics they believed would be used to describe More Developed Countries (MDCs), Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs), and Less Developed Countries (LDCs).  We figured this would be a great way to have the class interact with each other in a non-threatening way because neither group had been exposed to these concepts in class.  This activity was created as a type of pre-assessment for the class.

We don't have exactly the same bell schedule, so that will definitely pose a few issues as we move forward in the year, but I figured a way to get my students working on something for the 5 minutes before David's day began.  Once his class started, we got going with the lesson.  The students were in groups on their respective campuses figuring out what qualities they believed would be used for MDCs, NICs, and LDCs.  After 5 minutes, we came back as a whole class to discuss it.  Both David and I were at the board collecting the answers from both campuses.  I would have my groups share out for the students at Jones to hear, and we would write the answers on the board.  David would have his students then share out what they had come up with for the qualities of the types of countries.

There are still some kinks to figure out (sound being the biggest one to overcome), but I can not even begin to say how happy I was with the overall lesson and set up.  I am even more excited now about the future of the program.  I know there will be days that I will say it was a complete disaster, but that happens in my classroom sometimes as well.

We've scheduled our next session for Friday.  I will be updating the blog after every installment (well, at least that's my goal here).

Until next time...


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stream Teaching part 1-- A New Adventure

This year, I am trying something that I've never done before, and I've only seen done by one other school.  Now, this isn't to say this type of teaching isn't being done around the country or world, but I've not seen anything like it before.  We've combined the aspect of team teaching with live streaming to create our "Stream Teaching."  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this project.

So what exactly is this "Stream Teaching?"  I am partnering with a teaching at one of the lowest performing schools in our district.  Through this partnership, we will be team teaching our classes a few days a week using a program, Safari Montage, Live!  David is a brand new teacher and thus a first time AP Human Geography teacher.  David and I will be connecting our classrooms by live streaming both of them.  I will begin the teaching process since David is learning not just content, but also classroom management and other skills you pick up your first year teaching.  So, David's students will be watching me teach the lesson just as if they were in my classroom with my students.  I will be projecting his class on a screen on my side wall so that the classes can interact with each other when the time comes.  My goal is to not create two individual classes, but one class on two campuses that are interacting and learning together.  I don't want this to be just a class for David's students where they just watch me teach and watch my students learn.  I want to create an environment where the students are seamlessly learning together.  I want them to know each other and learn from each other.

I cannot wait for the first lesson to happen.  We're almost there.  I will be posting about this experience throughout the year.  Hopefully, you will join us on our adventure this year!